Before launching into Round 3 of Plums & Prunes, I want to tell you about an e-mail exchange with Mike Fannin, editor of The Star.
In a message last week, I told Mike, a fellow Kentucky native, about my blog, saying it was mostly about journalism and inviting him to check it out. He wrote back: “Jim: I appreciate the invite. No offense intended but I generally don’t have time to waste on things like this. Good luck and stay in touch.
Well, now, you probably wonder, did that make me mad? Nahhh. After 38 years in journalism (37 as a reporter and assigning editor at The Star), it takes more than a brush-off from an editor to raise my hackles. But it does make me wonder why the top editorial person at the paper would be so dismissive of a constructive critique of his product. If I were in Mike’s shoes, I think I would want to know what others thought about my product, especially at a time when the public increasingly has been turning its back on the paper.
Onward and upward, then!
~”That’s two lives with one liver’ ” (A-1, Friday, April 9) — Fascinating story about how a man named Richard Gross, whose liver was creating a particular health problem for him, donated his liver to another fellow, who should be able to get decades of use from it. Meanwhile, the donor also got a new liver, and his prospects look bright. Story by Donald Bradley.
~ “A new tone amid further disclosures” (A-1, Saturday, April 10) — It took a month, but The Star finally got the reignited priest sexual-abuse scandal on the front page. The packaging was outstanding, with the latest developments being “teased” (guiding to inside stories) under a photo of a somber-looking Pope Benedict XVI. The reader’s eyes then track down to a top-notch, bottom-of-the-page story about Kansas City-based National Catholic Reporter, a weekly that has doggedly been reporting on the scandal for 25 years. Story by Laura Bauer of the metropolitan staff and Eric Adler of the features department.
~”Public payrolls weathering recession” (A-1, Sunday, April 11) — Only the newspaper can and will do this kind of story. The Star analyzed a database of more than 160,000 area public employees’ pay in 2009 and came out with a cogent report that must have left many readers seething. Among other things, Michael Mansur reported that more employees are making $100,000 a year and more also have moved into the $50,000 to $100,000 range. Let the good times roll.
~ “$506 million in budget cuts” (B-1, Sunday, April 11) — Extremely clear and well-written budget-cut story by Jason Noble of the Jefferson City bureau. After noting that Gov. Jay Nixon and the Senate Appropriations chairman were pleased that the cuts would keep expenditures in line with revenue, Noble wrote, “But, oh, at what a cost,” and proceeded to detail the painful cuts.
~ “County gets tough on keeping people in jail” (B-3, Sunday, April 11) — Police reporter Christine Vendel kept up the good work on revoked drivers, reporting that prosecutors are following up on their pledge to crack down in the wake of sixth-grader Damien Slayton’s death at the hands Clayton (Revoked and Dangerous) Dunlap.
~ “Joyful winner is good for golf” (A-1, Monday, April 12) — Edgy column, painting Tiger Woods as villain, by Jason Whitlock on Phil Mickelson’s victory at The Masters golf tournament.
~ “A lifeline is languishing” (A-1, Monday, April 12) — Another strong entry in the paper’s occasional series examining budget reductions in Kansas and Missouri. This one, by Lee Hill Kavanaugh, is about cuts to the Missouri Kidney Program.
~ “Police seeking Plaza solution” (A-1, Tuesday, April 13) — After dragging its feet for a day, The Star got aggressive on the Plaza melee story. (For more on this, see post from Wednesday, April 14.)
~ “Ignoring danger signs” (A-1, Wednesday, April 14) — A gut punch of a story about the increased risk of irreparable heart damage that patients without health insurance run. Written by Alan Bavley. Accompanied by a bold and beautifully framed photo by David Eulitt.
~ “Speculation still stirs over horses’ deaths” (A-1, Wednesday, April 14) — In a piece that made me want to kick something, reporter Grace Hobson probed the death of 18 horses, some of them former Thoroughbred race horses, who died while in the possession of the daughter of former Woodlands’ trainer Jim McCoy. McCoy died last August. Neighbors and others contend the horses died because they did not get enough to eat.
~ “A hunt to behold” (B-1, Wednesday, April 14) — Outdoor writer Brent Frazee weighed in with a touching and inspiring story about a blind 14-year-old, Charlie Wilks, who was able to shoot a 24-pound turkey.
~ “In twilight of his career, Sen. Bond keeps active” ((A-1, Thursday, April 15) — Washington correspondent David Goldstein beckoned the reader into this story with an inviting first sentence, “The calendar says spring, but for Sen. Kit Bond, it’s autumn.”
~ “A new era begins for Kansas City School Board” (A-1, Thursday, April 15) — Centerpiece photo of the new king of the educational hill in K.C., Airick Leonard West. Photo by Eulitt.
#% “Seizing the moment” (B-5, Friday, April 9) — Mike DeArmond story about the introduction of Robin Pingeton as the new women’s basketball coach at the University of Missouri seemed innocuous…unless, that is, you also happened to read the Associate Press account. The AP story said that Pingeton went out of her way, at the news conference, to emphasize her Christianity and family values. That raises the specter of putting her at odds with people who don’t drape themselves in those values, including gay women supporters of the team. It was a significant omission by DeArmond. (For more on this, see the post from Monday, April 12.)
#% “Some smell the coffee, crusade for Folgers plant” (A-1, Saturday, April 10) — There’s nothing wrong with the thrust of this; it’s a legitimate front-page story about an attempt to keep the Folgers plant from closing. My gripe is that in two front-page stories about the announced closing, business writer Randolph Heaster has yet to quote a single plant worker. (I chatted with a worker for 10 minutes while shooting photos outside the plant Tuesday. He’s 60 and going to retire.) It’s long past time for Heaster to get the phone out of his ear and put his shoes on the pavement.
* “Meche has a bad day in first start” (B-2, Monday, April 12) — It’s a good column by Sam Mellinger, but he didn’t get any help from the copy desk (the quality control center) when he wrote, “That jives with what Meche calls…” Should be “jibes.” Jive” has several meanings, but none has anything to do with being in accord.